If Missouri’s public schools were graded on how fairly and equitably they dole out discipline, they would receive some bad marks.

According to new data, the problem has only become worse.

Missouri now has the 10th highest gap between Black and White K-12 students in the nation when it comes to out-of-school suspensions, according to federal data from the 2015-2016 school year. Black students are now five times more likely than their White peers to receive an out-of-school suspension, according to new information ACLU of Missouri analyzed from the federal Office of Civil Rights.

This is a marked increase over the data we reported on in our October 2017 report, “From School to Prison: Missouri’s Pipeline of Injustice.”  Missouri is falling far short of its obligation to provide its children with equal access to education by routinely disciplining Black students and students with disabilities harsher and more frequently than their White and non-disabled peers.

The trend begins way before students even get to high school. Missouri has the eighth highest gap between Black and White students when it comes to suspensions in preschool, according to the latest data from the Office of Civil Rights. Black preschoolers are more than four times as likely to be suspended compared to White preschoolers -- Missouri gives multiple out-of-school suspensions to Black preschoolers more than 44 other states.

In our report’s data from the 2013-2014 school year, we found that while Black students made up 14 percent of Missouri’s student population, they were given 41 percent of the suspensions as discipline. The new data shows those disparities are getting worse – Black students were 16 percent of the population but received 46 percent of suspensions statewide just two school years later.

The disparity is also great for disabled students, who are more than twice as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension compared to their peers.  

It’s even worse for Missouri’s Black students with disabilities, who are suspended three times more frequently than White students with disabilities. The same category of students was suspended a little over twice as many times as their peers in the 2013-2014 data. 

Comparing out-of-school suspensions, the new data shows Black students with disabilities are eight times more likely to receive this discipline than their White peers.

When students get suspended, it has long-term effects including time out of class, falling behind on homework and damaged self-worth. It puts far too many young people on a path that feeds directly into the school-to-prison pipeline.

This toxic combination of missed class time and lowered self-esteem creates a damaging cycle the results in classroom disengagement and higher dropout rates. The consequences extend far beyond the classroom, perpetuating cycles of poverty, low-education attainment, and structural inequalities that span generations.

We’re going to keep crunching the numbers on this data. In the next few months, we will release district-level report cards on several school districts in Missouri.

We must take action. That’s why we’ve teamed up to work with school districts, parents, caregivers and students across the state to end the school-to-prison pipeline in Missouri. Join us at one of our upcoming events.

Justice doesn’t stop at the schoolhouse door. Missouri’s schools can do better.

Let’s get to work.